I though it would be interesting to share here the perspective of my girlfriend (a native japanese) on Kanji-learning. Learning Japanese with (and for) a japanese person is very different from learning in a class or with a textbook, and what she told me made me realize how different our approaches to kanji-learning were.
We foreigners and kanji-learners (including myslef) are obsessed with numbers : supposedly 1000 kanji to be able to read a manga, 2000 to be able to read the newspaper, 3000 to be fully litterate… And depending on were you loiter on the internet, those figures greatly vary (sometimes you read “3000 Kanji”, sometimes it’s 6000… I’ve even read on some quora thread that as much as 15 000 kanji are required. And I’ve read here that anything below 2400 kanji makes any native material lethal.)
And now the truth : my girlfriend confessed knowing how to read certainly less than 2000 kanji.
And no, she’s not stupid. Most of her friends confessed the same.
Of course, by the end of high school they are supposed to know at least 2000 kanjis, but in practice that’s really different. They forget a lot of them (let alone the writing skills).
We, kanji learners, tend to think that as long as we sometimes encounter unknown kanji in daily native material, we haven’t reached our goal yet. But although being japanese, she said that encountering unknown kanji happens to her on a daily basis. Japanese people often have an electronic kanji dictionnary on their smartphone for that.
Unlike us, japanes people (generaly speaking) don’t aim for a comprehensive understanding of all kanji that are used in daily life. They consider normal to sometimes not knowing how to read something and having to check.
This is very difficult to understand for us (well, at least for me), because from an european language speaker perspective, being able to read absolutely everyting is essential even on the early stages ; and we tend to project this perception on the japanese language.
And fun fact, my girlfriend told me that, when she was taking french classes in Tokyo (french being my native language), her teacher was french, and he knew way more kanji than any of the japaneses persons attending the class (roughly 3000 kanji). Student often had to ask him the meaning of the kanji he just wrote (I’m pretty sure he was often showing off though )
So here’s my 2 cents. You might disagree, or aldready know that, or having heard a different opinion from japanese persons. Curious to hear it though !